Tip archive

10 Minutes of Practice

    It's the big tournament you've been waiting all week to bowl in. The time has come for you to get 10 minutes  of practice on your pair of lanes before the real action starts. What do you do?  Do you stand in your favorite spot and aim for your favorite target and see if your ball goes into the pocket like you hope it will?  That's what most people do. But, I suggest an entirely different tactic.

    To start with, learn what it looks like when your ball starts to read the lane. To do that, you need to practice before the day of the tournament.  It would be helpful if you put a piece of bowlers tape on the center of your ball (between the finger holes and thumbhole) so that you can watch your ball roll.  If you throw the ball really slow and watch the tape as it rotates around the ball you will see immediately when your ball starts to grip the lane surface. Make sure you remove the piece of tape before you throw that ball during any type
of competition.

    The idea is that you want to go up and throw the ball at about 1/2 your normal bowling speed. When you throw the ball that slow, the ball will start to read (grip) the lane  shortly after it reaches the point where the oiling machine stopped.

    What we're looking for is....where is the lane a little oilier and where is the lane a little drier?  So, here's what we do. Slowly walk up and throw the ball between the first arrow and the gutter at about 1/2 speed, and watch the ball closely to see how far the ball goes down the lane before it begins to hook.

    Make a mental note of how many feet down the lane the ball went before it started to hook. Lets say it went 25 ft. Now on your next shot, move your feet 5 boards in and move your target 5 boards in and throw the ball the same way.  This will have you throwing the ball down the 8 board or around the 2nd arrow. We don't have to be exact in our shots at this point so if you just get close that's ok. Note we made a parallel move with our feet and target so we are pretty much trying to throw the ball down the boards more than swing the ball. 

    Again, make a note how far the ball travels down the lane before it begins to hook. Lets say it went 35 ft. The next shot we continue by moving in 5 boards with our feet and 5 boards with our target and we throw the ball again. This will have you throwing the ball around the 13 board. Let's say the ball started to roll this time around 40 ft.

    If you have time you can do the same thing and throw the ball right down the middle of the lane.  The idea here is that we're trying to get a mental picture  of what type of oil pattern the lane plays like. If the ball goes a little longer with each shot then we know we are bowling on a typical house shot or wall type of pattern. Use a medium hooking ball, not your most aggressive or plastic ball to gauge this.

    Next thing we do is shoot a 7 pin and a 10 pin. This is mostly just to let your body see what it's like to throw at that angle. For most people that is the only time they will see that angle...when they are shooting a 7 or a 10. You don't want that first time to be when it counts. 

    All these shots are helping you gather vital information and allowing your body to warm up and get loose. It's not going to do any good to get up there and start trying to throw quality shots. Your body is not ready and will go through changes as it warms up. Until your body is ready we need to just gather information. Then armed with the information, we have an idea how the lanes were oiled, so we can now find our strike shot and score well today.  This exercise will tell us in practice, not during the tournament, if we have an out of bounds or some other little surprise the lane man left us. We are not only gathering information for the start of the tournament but for later when the lanes start breaking down.  Remember during our first four shots, we don't care if the ball ever comes in contact with the head pin. We only want to watch the ball to see where it reads the lane.

    Now in our remaining practice time, we find a line to the pocket and I suggest that you throw the ball a little aggressive. I have seen countless times when guys in practice will throw strike after strike and when they turn the lights on, the ball heads for the nose or washes out. Then they come back to say, 'boy the lanes really changed from practice". What really changed was "them". What happened is, when we started keeping score and the shots mattered, they threw the ball a little harder or added more revs because it counts now. They wanted to make sure they threw the ball well. That's the worse thing we can do. When the score counts try to stay relaxed like you were in practice. If you look back at the shots you were making in practice, they were often better than the shots you are making now. It's all because it didn't matter then and you were relaxed. Your body will go through changes as it warms up. We have to be as sensitive to that as we are to lane changes.

    Remember, it takes 2 people to bowl a game in a tournament. You and the lane man. The lane man already did his job, but he's not talking. We have to find out what he's done.  It is a big advantage if we can find that out during practice instead of the first spare we miss because we didn't know what the lane man did. I strongly suggest that people throw plastic (straight, don't try to hook it) at all their spares or learn to throw their strike balls straight. This removes the lane man's influence on the second ball if you didn't strike on the first. I know everyone thinks you can't throw straight at sleepers because the ball will deflect and miss the sleeper. That's just not true. You just have to hit the front pin a little more full in the face. I am pretty sure the margin for error is about the same ( vs hooking) but even if I am wrong and you have a slight advantage in pin contact area by hooking the ball, I can just about guarantee, you will more than make up for it by taking the lane condition out of the picture. That's what you do when you throw straight at spares. You should make the same number of spares regardless of the lane condition.

    Look for an advanced tip using breakpoint strategy in the near future.
Bowl great!
Ron Clifton